The first in a three part series of my travelogue to New York City


I’m going to do this in segments.  It’s too long to put into one episode of my blog, so I’ll do my best to relate to you what I have already written for my travelogue.  I almost always write a travelogue about the trips I take.  It’s the easiest way to share with people what I have done, and it also preserves the experience so that I can relive it if I choose to do so.

I flew out of Kirksville on Cape Air, which is most convenient, and then spent the night in St. Louis.  My flight the next morning was not frightfully early, but would land me in New York at about noon.  I finally got to my hotel at about 2 p.m., but had to wait a bit for my room.  The hotel Milburn is a lovely old hotel with lots of marble and wood and an all around lovely place to spend time.  When I made my reservation, they only had a suite, but I considered this one of my “trips of a lifetime,” so I didn’t care much about expense.

I quickly found a local restaurant where I could get decent food.  I had left the hotel in St. Louis early in the morning with no time to eat, so by the time I had checked in, I was pretty hungry.  I always like to scout around the neighborhood so that I know what’s available.  The restaurant I chose is a chain called Serafina and offers Italian fare.

After eating a bit I returned to my hotel to ready myself for my first evening. I had a ticket to see Tom Hanks in “Lucky Guy.”  I got there way too early, so after I picked up my will call ticket, I walked to Time Square to enjoy the excitement of this landmark location.

The play was just wonderful.  Written by Nora Ephron, whose niche in the world of theatre continues to flourish after her demise due to cancer, the play is about journalists in the mid to late 20th Century.  Tom Hanks plays Mike McAlary, who made his name by coming up with stories he then had to defend, even against a libel suit for millions of dollars.  His health played a big part in his vacillation between the Daily News and the NY Post, always strategizing to get his own way regarding how he worked.  He won a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts on a story about police corruption and discrimination that dealt with sordid and sickening abuses of power.  He continued after a debilitating accident that some people thought was a suicide attempt, and later fought a battle against invasive and aggressive cancer, which was the cause for his eventual demise.

He was both loved and hated by cohorts and superiors in his profession.  The fast moving action demands close attention to dialogue that jumps from humorous to violent to poignant and touching, but always interesting.  Maura Tierney of “News Radio” fame plays McAlary’s wife.  She has a respectable pedigree of success on the stage as well as in her work in television.

Peter Scolari is also one of the featured players.  He is well known for his role opposite Tom Hanks in Bosom Buddies and for his role on “Newhart.”   The entire cast is high caliber and the stage direction is especially effective, employing multi-media presentations to help tie the play to its history.  In addition, some really simple techniques such as freezes were well-placed for maximum effect.

My first night in New York was a great success and I could hardly wait for the next episode of my New York adventure.

The next night I had a ticket to see starring Nathan Lane starring as “The Nance.”  At the end of the burlesque era, New York’s Mayor LaGuardia did what he could to banish burlesque from the city.  “Nance” was a term for an effeminate player who entertained between scenes with double entendre comedy.  These performers were often, in their private lives, gay men.  There were places that they went to look for other gay men.  This show started in an automat that was apparently known as a homosexual rendezvous, but the men were careful and always watching for policemen, who were in turn watching for them.

Lane’s character, Chauncey, met a handsome young man, Ned, who had just left his wife when he discovered his own homosexual tendency.  It was clear that Ned loved his wife, but not in the way he felt she deserved, and he was in pursuit of a life that would satisfy his perceived needs.  Chauncey provided him with half a sandwich, aware that the young man was without the means to even purchase food.  He then invited him to his home.   The next morning, Chauncey expected Ned to leave and never darken his door again.  Chauncey was unprepared for anything beyond his one night of lust, and focused only on his job as an entertainer well-known for his excellence in the role he played at the house of burlesque.  Ned, on the other hand, found that he was quickly falling in love with Chauncey, an unlikely partner for the handsome young man.  Ned had not yet experienced the tenderness that can be coupled with a homosexual relationship.  For that matter, Chauncey had failed to ever become truly invested in a relationship, and was frightened by the prospect of spending an extended length of time with his new-found acquaintance.

Chauncey was good, after a while, at falling into the role of providing for this gem of a partner, but his ruse was short lived.   Once Ned began to express his love, Chauncey didn’t know how to deal with him.  Chauncey eventually strayed and found other sexual partners to satisfy his needs and wanted to shed his partner.  Ned suspected this due to Chauncey’s long absences from their life together.

Meanwhile, pressure from the police increased and raids on burlesque houses increased.  Eventually Chauncey went to jail and was beaten by policemen.  When his burlesque family made bail for him, he came back a beaten man, but still excited by the risky chase of seeking anonymous partners for brief sexual encounters.

Nobody can present bawdy comedy better than Lane, and the first half of the show vacillated between his home struggle and his life at the house of burlesque. It was hilarious and poignant and touching and sad.  These were qualities I found in every show I saw.

The show ended with closing the house of burlesque where several talented individuals made their living.  Mayor LaGuardia insured that they would have to seek employment in New Jersey so that New York could make an effort to clean up her doorstep.  It’s a story of civil rights and the freedom to be whomever or whatever one wants.  This theme also runs through just about every show playing these days. 

It’s difficult to understand why our country should be dealing with these same topics after all we’ve been through, but many people still want to control what others do with their lives.  It’s about free speech, censorship and the fact that anything outside of the norm causes difficulty and encourages people to lead lives under the cloak of secrecy, which is never healthy.

In my next segment, I will talk about the play that brought me to New York.